Chelsea midfielder continues exodus to Chinese Super League

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John Obi Mikel has become the latest high-profile player to swap the Premier League for China after the Nigerian completed a free transfer move to Tianjin TEDA.

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The 29-year-old, who had enjoyed a trophy-laden 10-year spell at Stamford Bridge following a move from Norwegian side Lyn in 2006, snubbed interest from La Liga club Valencia to sign a lucrative deal with the Chinese-based team.

In doing so, Obi Mikel joined former Chelsea teammate Oscar in becoming the newest recruit to China’s top tier from European football, in what is developing into a real trend in the global game as stars are lured by the financial clout available in the Orient.

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Antonio Conte’s appointment as new Chelsea manager over the summer had coincided with Mikel seeing his game-time increasingly limited. And in an emotional Twitter farewell to Chelsea supporters, the combative Nigerian admitted that it was time to seek a new challenge after losing his place in the Blues starting line-up.

“I haven’t featured as much this season as I would have liked and I still have many years in the game ahead of me,” he wrote.

“With this in mind, I feel now is the time to seek a new challenge.

“I’m delighted to be joining Tianjin TEDA FC at a time that the Chinese Super League is really taking off, and I look forward to helping Tianjin TEDA FC continue to grow.

“To play in the Premier League is every professional player’s ambition.

“But to play for Chelsea, to become part of the Chelsea family to work with some of the best managers and players in the world, has truly been an honour.

Mikel won one Champions League, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups during his stint at Stamford Bridge, making 372 appearances for the west Londoners.

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